Once upon a time companies were built based on a long-term vision. Constructing a strategic plan to achieve a 15, 20 or 30-year vision was the norm. These long-range plans supplied the framework for decision-making for generations of management teams. They provided purpose to employees and continuity for partners. They were the pillars of the strategic management processes that lead to companies that were “Built to Last.” Sounds like ancient history, doesn’t it? It begs the question, is strategic planning irrelevant?
In today’s climate, the media is full of companies built in a just a few years, and many sadly fall away just as rapidly. In my backyard (the bay area), Theranos, Zynga, and Zenefits are just a few that come to mind. With what feels like continually shortening cycles, long-term thinking seems out of sync with today’s management challenges. Technological advances, 24 hours communication demands and pressure to perform against investor expectations all put daily pressure to execute, now!
I’d like to make the case that now more than ever strategic planning is vital to winning. Because we live in a world where change has become the norm your strategic thinking maybe the only thing you can depend on to guide decision-making. In fact, a solid long-range plan may be more important for leadership team’s today because the environment feels so mercurial. How else can you keep your team oriented in the right direction if you don’t have one?
Here are three reason’s your strategic plan is more relevant than ever today:
- An environment of rapid change means you need to have a clear and shared view of success so you can effectively evaluate and respond to opportunities and threats quickly and cohesively. Responding to change is important, but more important is getting back on track with your plans to achieve your goals.
- Change can work to your favor, but only if you are prepared to meet it. If you have taken the time to explore your market, its future and your ideal role in it, you may have identified an evolution that you want to make. If factors around you conspire to make this evolution happen earlier than you had expected, you will be ready to jump on it and optimize change for your benefit.
- Leadership only works when you have followers. Unfortunately, rapid change has also come created new leadership challenges as the committment of employees can be as elusive as a full year sales forecast. How better to attract and retain your best talent than with a strong future direction and ways to make changes quickly using it? If you do not have a compelling strategic direction, what will you use to engage with the strategic thinking they bring to your organization?
Just like navigating in a storm, rapid change makes it easy to get off course – to stray away from your purpose. This is especially true when conditions demand that you take on the unexpected and retool priorities frequently. The context your plan provides is key to evaluating shifts, responding to them, and getting back on your course quickly. It will act like a beacon of light that never goes out as you move towards your ultimate goals.
Prevail through your changing environment with your strategic plan.
Don’t have one? Take our Strategy Ready Test to see how well your strategic management tools stack up.